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Understanding the Concept of Allomorphs

Grade 9
Jun 8, 2023

Word Wizard – Allomorphs

  • Morphology is the study of word formation, of the structure of words.
  • Some of the basic concepts in the study of morphology include ‘morphemes,’ ‘morphs’ and ‘allomorphs.
  • A morpheme may be defined as the smallest indivisible unit of semantic content and grammatical function.
  • A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of language which cannot be subdivided without losing its meaning.
  • Allomorphs are defined as the positional variants of a morpheme; they are in complementary distribution means ‘where one occurs, the other cannot occur’.
  • A unit of the lexicon (a vocabulary item, an entry in the dictionary), which is an uninflected abstract form that underlies all its inflected variants is called a lexeme.
  • It is a unit of the lexicon (a vocabulary item, an entry in the dictionary), which is an uninflected abstract form that underlies all its inflected variants.
  • There are two types of morphemes-free morphemes and bound morphemes.
  • A free morpheme is the opposite of a bound morpheme, a word element that cannot stand alone as a word.
  • Content words are sometimes called open class words because we can regularly add new words to these classes.
  • Function words play a grammatical role; they connect the content words to the larger grammatical context.
  • Bound morphemes do not have any meaning when they stand alone and must be attached to other morphemes.
  • Inflectional morphemes influence the base words to signal a change in quantity, person, gender, or tense while leaving the base word’s class unchanged.
  • Derivational morphemes are considered lexical because they influence the base word according to its grammatical and lexical class, resulting in a larger change to the base.
  • Allomorphs are variants of the same morpheme.
  • Phonemes have their allophones. Morphemes have their allomorphs.
  • There are three types of conditioning of the allomorphs and each one creates different allomorphs under different circumstances: phonological, morphological, and lexical.
  • Suppletion can be recognized as the fourth type of conditioning as well, however, there is a thin line between suppletion and lexical conditioning.


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